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International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation

Forklift Truck Operator

What is a Hazard Datasheet on Occupation?

This datasheet is one of the International Datasheets on Occupations. It is intended for those professionally
concerned with health and safety at work: occupational physicians and nurses, safety engineers, hygienists,
education and Information specialists, inspectors, employers ' representatives, workers' representatives, safety
officers and other competent persons.

This datasheet lists, in a standard format, different hazards to which forklift truck operators may be exposed in
the course of their normal work. This datasheet is a source of information rather than advice. With the knowledge
of what causes injuries and diseases, is easier to design and implement suitable measures towards prevention.

This datasheet consists of four pages:

Page 1: Information on the most relevant hazards related to the occupation.

Page 2: A more detailed and systematized presentation on the different hazards related to the job with
indicators for preventive measures (marked and explained on the third page).
Page 3: Suggestions for preventive measures for selected hazards.
Page 4: Specialized information, relevant primarily to occupational safety and health professionals and
including information such as a brief job description, a list of tasks, notes and references.

Who is a forklift truck operator?

A worker who drives an industrial truck equipped with lifting devices, and performs various tasks related to this

What is dangerous about this job?

Forklift trucks sometimes overturn due to overload, incorrect load positioning, driving and operating errors,
or poor maintenance. This put their operators at a life-threatening risk.
Operators of forklift trucks may suffer serious traumas when the load falls from the truck, or stacked load
collapses, etc.
Forklift Truck Operators may, in the course of time, suffer from back, neck and hands and arm pains, cause
by uncomfortable seating, vibrations and excessive physical efforts.

Hazards related to this job

Specific preventive measures can be seen by clicking on the respective in the third column of the table.

Accident hazards Fall of truck operator, due to slip or incautious step, while climbing to or
descending from the operator's seat
Fall of truck from an upper level to a lower level, due to careless driving, slip
or collapse
Fall of improperly loaded cargo

Overturning of truck due to overload or incorrect positioning of the center of

Overturning due to cargo lifting to an excessive height, or due to careless
Overturning of truck, esp. 3-wheel, while making an extremely sharp and
speedy turn
Overturning due to driving on a too steep slope, or at excessive driving
speed, or on an unsafe track (esp. in the event of spills on floors with loss of
traction), or due to use of improper equipment/accessories

Rolling-down of truck due to insufficiently applied handbrake  

Injury from rotating parts of the truck, not fully protected against accidental
Collision with a stationary (e.g. building, wall, etc.) or moving object (esp.
when field of vision is obstructed by the cargo)
Collapse of a stack (mostly a stack of poorly stacked goods, when hit by a
truck or due to vibration from a nearby truck)
Electric shock resulting from contact with overhead electric cables
Acute exposure to hazardous chemicals as a result of fall and crush of fragile
containers; also potential injury from broken glass
Spill of acid during battery charging

Physical hazards Exposure to excessive noise levels (esp. when operating diesel trucks or
working inside closed structures), with resulting hearing impairment

Exposure to whole-body vibration caused by rigid construction of truck  

(particularly wheels), inadequate shock-absorbing properties of operator's
seat (e.g., lacking or improperly adjusted suspension), and prolonged driving
on rough grounds
Exposure to harsh climatic conditions (heat, cold, rain, winds, etc.) while
working outdoors

Chemical hazards Allergic skin reactions as a result of contact with fuel and/or solvents

Eye injury due to splashes of corrosive materials

Intoxication by exhaust gases, esp. asphyxiation by CO resulting from

incomplete combustion of fossil fuel, which are emitted from the exhaust pipe
and their concentration is rising rapidly inside closed and inadequately
ventilated structures
Exposure to nitrogen oxides (NOX) emitted together with the exhaust gases
inside relatively closed and inadequately ventilated structures

Biological hazards Exposure to aerosols containing microorganisms, fungi, etc., raised into the
air with the dust as result of truck movement

Ergonomic, Cumulative trauma disorders of hands and arms pains resulting from their
psychosocial and overexertion while driving a non-laden truck presenting higher resistance to
organizational steering
factors Low-back pain, muscle contraction and other disorders caused by prolonged
seating (in a rigid and often awkward posture) in an ergonomically
inadequate seat

Neck pains as a result of frequent back-turning of head and neck stretching  

during reverse driving and while transporting bulky load obstructing
operator's field of vision
Vision problems (eyestrain, eye burn, other kinds of irritation, double vision,
etc.) due to prolonged work under condition of insufficient lighting, difficulty
of adaptation to abrupt changes in visual environment (e.g., from darkness to
bright lighting), blinding effect of other vehicles' headlights and floodlights,
Psychological stress associated with increased risk of accidents involving other
vehicles and suddenly appearing pedestrians
Psychological problems with coworkers (e.g., caused by their requests of a

Preventive measures

Stack and secure pallets safely; do not exceed maximum recommended weight or height

Install overturning protection (e.g., ROPS)

Wear hearing protection appropriate for the noise levels and type of noise - consult the supplier or an

Protect hands with chemical-resistant gloves; if impractical, use a barrier cream

Wear appropriate eye protection; consult a safety supervisor or a supplier

Do not operate diesel or gasoline-powered forklift truck in confined or inadequately ventilated spaces; use
an electrically-operated truck

Use a respirator if truck motion raises much dust from the floor

Install an ergonomically-designed driver's seat

Specialized information

Synonyms Forklift truck worker; forklift truck driver; power lift truck operator; industrial -truck operator

Definitions Drives gasoline-, liquefied gas-, or electric-powered industrial truck equipped with lifting devices,
and/or such as forklift, boom, scoop, lift beam and swivel-hook, fork-grapple, clamps, elevating platform,
description or trailer hitch, to push, pull, lift, stack, tier or move products, equipment, or materials in
warehouse, storage yard, or factory: moves levers and presses pedals to drive truck and control
movement of lifting apparatus. Positions forks, lifting platform, or other lifting device under, over, or
around loaded pallets, skids, boxes, products, or materials, or hooks tow truck to trailer hitch, and
transports load to designated area. Unloads and stacks material by raising and lowering lifting
device. May inventory materials on work floor, and supply workers with materials as needed. May
weigh materials or products and record weight on tags, labels, or production schedules. May load or
unload materials onto or off of pallets, skids, or lifting device, May lubricate truck, recharge
batteries, fill fuel tank, or replace liquefied-gas tank. May be designated according to article moved
as Lead Loader (smelt. & refin.); process in which involved as Stripper Truck Operator (smelt. &
refin.); or type of truck operated as Electric-Truck-Crane Operator (any industry); Fork-Lift-Truck
Operator (any industry); etc. [DOT, Industrial-Truck Operator (any industry), abbr.]

Related and Operator of heavy mechanical equipment, such as: Bulldozer, draggling, wheel-loader, grader,
specific hydraulic-shovel, scraper, crane, etc.

Tasks Arranging; assisting; attaching; carrying; charging (batteries); checking (inventory); classifying;
connecting; controlling (movements); counting; driving; elevating; filling (fuel); heaping; hooking;
inventorying; lifting; labeling; loading & unloading; locating; lubricating; maintaining; marking;
mobilizing; moving; operating; positioning; pressing; pushing & pulling; raising & lowering;
recharging; recording; replacing; reporting; stacking; storing; supplying; tagging; tiering;
transferring; transporting; weighing

Primary Forklift truck with internal combustion engine; electric forklift truck; cables; fork legs extenders;
equipment hoisting ropes; pallets; baskets and buckets

Workplaces Warehouses; heavy industry; metal, wood, food, electronics, textile and similar industries; loading &
where the unloading in docks and air ports; as well as any industry in which mechanical lifting equipment is
occupation required
is common

References Powered Industrial Lift Trucks. Data Sheet I-653 Rev. 82, National Safety Council (USA).

Safety in Working with Lift Trucks. HS(G) 6, HSE (UK), 1992.

Updated by the HDOEDIT (© ILO/CIS, 1999) program. Approved by DG. Last update: 19.05.2000.